V Interesting

High Achieving with Christy Carlson Romano, ‘Soros’ This ‘Soros’ That, Off The Rails

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The news within the news of Donald Trump’s criminal indictment is that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories unfortunately still prevail. V debunks the thin threads that theorists try to spin between money, power, and religion, and what all this has to do with politics. Plus, elsewhere in the government, it’s coming out that unmanned, remote-controlled trains are far less regulated than they should be. To ease all this stress, V takes a trip down memory lane with 2000s icon Christy Carlson Romano, known for hits like Even Stevens and Kim Possible. Christy tells V what it was like leaving their shared home state of Connecticut to perform, how she got her start on Broadway and the reason she returned, and the ways she’s continuing to use her platform to advocate for child labor reform within the entertainment industry.

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V Spehar, Christy Carlson Romano

V Spehar  00:00

Hey friends, it’s Friday, April 7th 2023. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V SPEHAR. And today how anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have suck their claws into so many current events. Yes, even Donald Trump’s criminal indictment, plus the high highs and the frustrating lows of this year’s record smashing NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Then I’ll be joined by none other than Christy Carlson Romano to take a trip down memory lane and talk about the ways Hollywood has and hasn’t changed. All that and more on today’s V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. These past few weeks, we’ve been hearing nonstop about Donald Trump’s indictment, but one detail in particular caught my ear. And it’s a detail that maybe didn’t even register on your radar. It’s that the district attorney who’s prosecuting Trump is apparently quote funded by George Soros. Now what does that mean? Who even is that? And where have we heard this before? A recent Fox article provided some helpful context, and we’re gonna break it down now. George Soros is a 92 year old billionaire and philanthropist. He was born in Hungary to a Jewish family where he lived through the Nazi occupation. He then moved to the UK and then to the US where he found a career trading and managing funds. He spent years building a fortune through banking, and he pretty quickly began donating tons of that money to causes around the world. Much of his focus has been on promoting democracy and equality. And he’s done it in a lot of different ways, like opening art and cultural centers in the 90s, or awarding a grant to the ACLU of Maine to help with drug policy reform. Now, listen, the money George Soros has donated is just that it’s just donations. It is no longer his money. He started nonprofits and other organizations. And then those groups invest in political causes and campaigns and the cycle goes on and on and on. At this point, it’s kind of disingenuous to keep the Soros name on everything he’s ever given money to. It’d be like if every store I had ever bought a suit and labeled it as V Spehar backed, and yet the phrase Soros backed continues to pop up all over the place. In the case of the DA, charging trump any connection between DA Alvin Bragg and George Soros is distant at best. The racial justice group Color of Change is the one who supported Braggs’ campaign for Office. And then one of the nonprofits that Soros funds made a donation to Color of Change. As this Fox article put it, quote, the intensity of the accusation certainly doesn’t seem proportionate to the tenuousness of the connection. This is a terrible trend. Soros has actually been a billionaire boogeyman for decades now. Meaning His name has little to do with him as a person or with his individual actions. But it’s nearly always meant as an insult or a threat. He continues to be shorthand for supposedly wrongdoing and corruption of the political left. And this isn’t great, my friends. All this focus on Soros in particular is setting off alarm bells for some people, why him and not other democratic donors. Unfortunately, this is just textbook anti-Semitism. The idea that Jewish people use their wealth to control the world or whatever or the opposite of that, that they’re somehow like crafty or stingy with their money. It’s unfounded and it’s harmful. It’s an oppressive stereotype that the Christian ruling class came up with as far back as the Middle Ages as a way to deny certain groups land resources and community trust. And as we know, white Christian European communities have weaponized these accusations for centuries, leading directly to atrocities like the Holocaust, which remember, George Soros lived in the direct fallout of the Holocaust during his youth. These anti-Semitic tropes continued to this day. Late last year, NBA player Kyrie Irving defended his decision to promote an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on social media. Right Wing pundits continue to circulate language that Jewish financiers are, quote, puppet masters of the global economy. And tragically, this was the stance of the shooter who killed almost a dozen people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018. By all means, please read up on and critique the choices of billionaires we should scrutinize people with power. But this outsize attention on George Soros isn’t exactly fair or right. And keep in mind that Soros has long loved democracy. He was born in Hungary in 1930, which means he lived through both Nazi art Be patient and communist dictatorship. And once he had the money to spend, he spent millions of it on development in post-communist societies to help strengthen the foundation of democracy. He appears to want nothing more than to help the world fight against oppression. And regardless of political leanings, I’d like to think that we’re a little bit better for it.

V Spehar  05:25

Speaking of disproportionate attention, there sure is a lot of focus on women’s sports as of late, it’s something that the athletes have deserved and wanted and called forth literally for forever, but it’s only recently been showing up. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all you know, sunshine and roses. It reveals a lot of problems that we still need to fix. First, though, can we just talk about the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, aka the March Madness you wish you followed. There were records broken upsets in so many feats of athleticism, and the public responded in kind. Even before the championships this past weekend viewership of the tournament was already up 42% from last years, and the championship game itself went on to become the most watched NCAA women’s basketball game ever and if that wasn’t big enough, the tournament as a whole broke its own record for in person attendance. This corner of the sports world finally got its time in the limelight. But let’s be clear, it would have been great if all this attention wasn’t riddled with existing problems when it comes to women’s representation. For one, these teams have garnered a ton of hype and interest. But the money that the league makes does not reflect that. The New York Times reports that ESPN paid just $6 million for the rights to air the women’s basketball tournament and 28 other NCAA championships, all for that one price. Meanwhile, the NCAA estimates that the Women’s Basketball Tournament alone could be worth at least $85 million in just a few years. That’s a heck of a deal you got there, ESPN. And also we could have done without the gross antiquated double standard between the Black and White players who were playing in this tournament. One issue in particular involves LSU forward Angel Reese and the University of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark while playing against each other in the final, Reese, who is Black waved her hand in front of her face while looking at Clark that kind of like John Cena, you can’t see me taunt. Well, the internet might as well have been on fire with how angry people were at Reese, and they had all kinds of thought about her lack of class. But when Clark who was White had done the same gesture just a few games before she didn’t get any pushback, quite the opposite. ESPN aired a segment where they called clerk quote the queen of clap backs and trash talking and basketball is kind of part of the game so we get it. major problems also still exist even beyond this tournament. at the professional level. We still don’t have equivalent resources for non-male players, the pay equipment in training facilities, they’re all subpar across the board compared to men’s sports. I mean, why do you think Brittney Griner was off playing basketball in Russia, it’s because she had to compete in the offseason to supplement her income. Trans female athletes also continued to be targeted in recent waves of anti-trans legislation. Wyoming just passed a law that bans trans girls from joining female designated high school sports teams. And let’s be real friends. Some of these high school sports teams are just really like an athletic club. There’s no money on the line. They’re just playing for fun and for community. There is a little bit of good news though, improvements are coming to Title Nine, the civil rights law is slated to get some addendums this May, the changes aimed to better support women in school sports from the court to the field to the pools as long as those schools are federally funded. And these additions include Title Nine protections for transgender and non-binary students as well for the first time ever. Now that’s one small step for women. We are still waiting on a larger leap.

V Spehar  08:59

Every time we record, I’m like, man, these kids are really going through it. Like it’s a tough time out there for young folks. The kids are not all right, you know, and we need to continue to do all that we can to respect them as people and protect them as youth. More importantly, we do just have to let kids be kids. I mean, like let my niece go to Taylor Swift let your daughter play sports. Let your son play with remote controlled trains. Oh, wait. I’m sorry. I thought this was a different story. Apparently, the remote control trains we’re going to talk about are not the children’s toys. Okay, well, shifting gears. It appears that the remote control trains we’re going to talk about today are indeed adult sized Department of Transportation, real trains, and they are moving tons of hazmat maybe through a town near you with no conductor insights. And this story is getting worse. These trains are also excluded from pending legislation aiming to regulate train safety. Oh, you guys, it’s true. After all the high profile train derailments and disputes these past few months, Congress is working on some legal changes. Among other things, they’re trying to mandate minimum crew sizes for trains. Ideally, this would meet the labor needs of workers and also make derailments less of a common thing. But these mandates, they do not extend to what is probably the scariest and most dystopian type of train, the remote controlled train. Remote Controlled locomotives or RCL’s are currently only used for short distances, kind of like in and around the rail yards. But that’s no small thing. They’re still carrying tons of hazardous materials, like ethanol and sulfuric acid, not to mention what NBC News described as, quote, acidic poison, you guys. And when I say short distances, it’s not that short. RCL is might travel dozens of miles at a time. NBC reports that the real company Union Pacific has taken a pretty lacks approach to operating RCS and it has for a while. Reportedly, the company has workers who are not licensed engineers and are not conductors operating the RCS, and they’re doing it using remote joysticks and get this they’ve been doing it that way for 20 years. Plus, these workers are only required to have two weeks of training before they get into remote operations. If this is making less sense to you than the fact that school buses don’t have seatbelts, you are not alone. So to recap, remote controlled trains traveling dozens of miles carrying hazardous materials run by folks with very little training via Atari, like joysticks are excluded from the safety mandates that Congress is proposing. Look, if the point of new legislation is to create new safety rules to reflect the needs of a modern railway, it is only reasonable that those rules extend to modern technology. Like RCLs. I’ve said it once I’ll say it again, call your representatives or else we might see robot train sludge spill sooner than we’d like. Every now and then I look to the world for answers on how we can all have a little bit more safe fun. And so this next story is out of New Zealand. In recent months, the New Zealand firefighting service has caught wise to the fact that fires start when people are lighting up in other ways, specifically when people are under the influence and inevitably get hungry and maybe turn on the stove and forget to turn it off. According to fire and emergency New Zealand, half of fatal house fires involve drugs or alcohol. But the Kiwis have a solution. And to the country’s newest PSA campaign, you’re cooked. It aims to introduce people to new ways to cook when they themselves are cooked, how to prevent a blaze when you’re placed. And it does so by encouraging folks to avoid heating elements that don’t automatically turn off. In fact, the tagline of the campaign is stay off the stove. So we’re talking microwaves, maybe some no cooked meals, toasters leftover straight from the fridge. There are truly endless possibilities. And we know that these foods taste even better when you’re not, you know, all there. To aid in this effort. The Fire Service has released a cookbook full of these fire safe recipes. There are steps for making instant noodles with an electric kettle. There’s microwave nachos, there’s even a toast sandwich which is not what you’re thinking it is. It’s two pieces of untoasted bread around one piece of toasted bread. And then you just eat these three pieces of bread with like butter. I don’t know it sounds good to me. It sounds fine to me. So please, please go check these things out and for your mental health go and watch the video PSA that accompanies the campaign. These people are really cooked and it is a delight. You know, there’s just some media that will always make you feel good for some it is watching ridiculous videos of drunk people cooking and for us. We’re going to catch up on a few reruns of Kim Possible and lean into nostalgia for a pick me up. After the break. We’ve got Disney and Broadway superstar Christy Carlson Romano so grab your beepers and your annoying younger brother because we are headed back to the heydays of 90s and early 2000s Entertainment we’ll have that right after the break.

V Spehar  14:33

Welcome back friends, I cannot believe the day has finally come but I am sitting here with the one and only Christy Carlson Romano for those who did not grow up watching Christy on Disney Channel, here is what you need to know. Christie grew up just one town away from me in Connecticut and she had talent from the start. Just ask my mom who compared me to her constantly. She was in voice training and local theater. She was a real ingenue. And though many of you know her as your queer, awaken hang in the Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly way before any of that was the thing. Christie actually got her start on Broadway. She has since acted in various capacities on stage and screen and taken a break from the entertainment industry to start a family. Ever the overachiever She also founded a podcast company and has been contributing wisdom and activism regarding child labor protections, especially as they pertain to Hollywood on all of her social media channels. I’m so excited. She’s here with us today. Without further ado, Christy Carlson Romano. Christy it is so great to have you on the show. Welcome.

Christy Carlson Romano  15:38

Thank you for having me. You look amazing. We get to see each other via Zoom sadly not in person.

V Spehar  15:44

I know I am in LA this episode of the podcast coming to you live from the Beverly Hilton. So Christie in the height of the 2000s, you were all over the Disney Channel. And for many millennials, you were really like a childhood icon for us people really recognize you maybe from Even Stevens or Kim Possible or Cadet Kelly. And that doesn’t even cover really half of the things you’ve accomplished in your life. So let’s start with Ren from Even Stevens, how do you think that role helped you discover who you are going to be as an actress?

Christy Carlson Romano  16:13

Oh, I mean, it’s interesting, because I’ve stepped so far away from acting for the last like I’d say five years, that now I evaluate a lot of these experiences as how they informed my childhood. And sort of Ren was definitely a part of my psyche, of being sort of like a very opera trained uptight type a girl from you know, I was obviously from an East Coast family. But I think they kind of like loved that about me because my energy was just so different to the Lewis Stevens energy, which was just utter chaos. And we really gelled well together in that he was hi, hi. And I was like, the straight woman. So I just think that it’s really interesting that I got sucked into this little dynamic, artistically, and didn’t even realize that that was a part of my tool belt as an actress, right? Like, I was projecting what I saw on Mary Tyler Moore, because my mom watched Nick at Night a lot when I was, you know, growing up, and we traveled together a lot for national tours. And so she we would be up late after I would do you know, these touring productions of Sound of Music and other things. And so it was like, I’d come home from the theater and she’d pass out to some Dewar’s and I’d be like watching, you know, Mary Tyler Moore, and there was the guffaw like the funny, you know, facial features of a girl with brown hair and brown eyes that I think I was drawn to. I remember when we got a review from I believe it was variety. I was like one of the top five to watch alongside like Amanda Bynes. Believe it or not, it was so exciting. I was so enthusiastic. And they had said, I was like, and I don’t need to know now I need to look up her name. But do you remember News Radio? Wendy Malik.

V Spehar  18:07

Oh, yeah, yeah.

Christy Carlson Romano  18:08

That’s what variety had said. I was like, a Wendy Malik type.

V Spehar  18:13

A very serious child.

Christy Carlson Romano  18:16

I guess, like someone who could really turn the comedy on in a way that wouldn’t be what you would think. So I enjoyed that. I enjoyed that.

V Spehar  18:25

Maybe we should tell folks where you got your start. So you grew up in Connecticut. We grew up like a town apart. We actually went to the same voice teacher as children, which was exciting. Because we come from well, I came from this place called the Valley.

Christy Carlson Romano  18:38

Oh, yeah, Derby. Derby and Sonia? Those are my people like for real. And that’s the thing is I did want to mention, where y’all where we are from is a very specific type of Connecticut. When you hear Connecticut you think like preppy, which it is in its own way where we’re from, but like, it’s just not Connecticut. Unless it’s Italian American Connecticut. The way we experienced it, it’s just what do you call it? What do you really truly I’m curious as a journalist?

V Spehar  19:08

Every time I tell people where I’m from, they’re like, I’m like, I’m from Connecticut. And they’re like, oh, like, like Westport. I’m like no girl. There is Connecticut, which is what you think of like yachting and boats and wealth and legacy money. And then there’s the valley or Fairfield New Haven county that is essentially like, mall preppy, like Abercrombie but as a reach, but it’s a working class town. Everybody’s dad worked at like Sikorsky Aircraft. Everybody’s mom was a teacher stayed at home. Extremely Italian. My family was Albanian which was like we just had to pretend to be Italian beause you know?

Christy Carlson Romano  19:40

We are extremely a melting pot like here’s the thing where we’re from, like you said, yes, there was like that kind of like performative prep, because it’s like signaling to people that you live in Connecticut, but that you haven’t abandoned your culture. We have Italians, like you said, we have Irish I definitely think we have Jewish people there and around and everybody, it coexists in a very unique way, especially growing up as a millennial there. It was fascinating to be a part of that. And still, when I revisit there, it’s like time has not caught up with that subculture of Fairfield County or New York, New Haven County.

V Spehar  20:19

It is a strange place. And another thing that’s kind of strange about the valley and where we grew up in New Haven county is how many child stars come out of this area. Like it’s close enough to Broadway, that a lot of kids I went to school with had were on Broadway, like the original coset went to like Shelton High School and like you, of course, but we always have like this moment where like, you’re in school, and things are normal. And then like, suddenly, one of the students from your class is like, yeah, I’m gonna go film for Nickelodeon, like Jackie Thornburg was on Pete and Pete, and like, you had this huge Disney career and like, there’s a bunch of kids who were like on Broadway and stuff. It’s a weird spot. I don’t know. Is it the Beverly Hills of Connecticut? No, not at all.

Christy Carlson Romano  20:56

Listen, we need to squash the beef on something. Okay.

V Spehar  21:00

Okay. I’m ready.

Christy Carlson Romano  21:01

No, because we can get back into this if there were to be a segue of how I ended up, you know, on my first day of filming for Disney on Even Stevens, and I was heartbroken about this guy from the valley that you and I connected about through social media.

V Spehar  21:18

He was a stud. He was the most handsome boy.

Christy Carlson Romano  21:24

Steel blue eyes and he’s fit. But, you know, he was mask like, he was like the dude that you’d see on those Abercrombie ads. So like, for me, I was like, oh, yeah, this is, oh, my God. So I was in love with this guy. And I think it was really the first time looking back that I ever had really like a, like a real desire to try to have a relationship with somebody because I was just like, very sheltered theater kid that had been around lots of different types of people. And so yeah, I do think that I had these feelings for this guy. But it was interesting in that the Valley really felt like he was there. Like, he was iconic. So my heart was broken. And even though I had these real feelings for him, I was like, I literally booked, you know, Even Steven, his pilot when I was 14, and then I, the summer that he and I were, you know, really dating and everything. It was right before my 16th birthday. And they had built the sets. And they were like, you have to move to Los Angeles and displace me basically, from my entire family. And this sort of suburban life that I had been really leaning into for the first time in my life. And I felt extremely displaced, having to leave that identity for myself and go into the unknown with my mom, these two dogs, one of which was feral, and bit me all the time, which was named cuddles. And it was like that Natalie Portman movie where her and her mom are like, she has like a stage mom, and they moved to California and like, so that’s how I felt I was like, you know, pining about this character, like looking out of the window, and just absolute heartbreak. But I think it wasn’t him so much as I’m talking to you now, as much as it was me grieving the structure that I had tried to, you know, you know, cast myself. And so that’s that.

V Spehar  23:17

Was that a moment for you where maybe you were choosing between this Hollywood Life and this very comfortable, very family focused very small town life. And maybe that’s what you were grieving a little?

Christy Carlson Romano  23:30

Yeah, because I really had no choice. I think like, you, this is so beautiful to talk to you about this, because you’re really the only person that can understand all the bits of this. And it really was quite a turning point in my life. And I don’t think most people would care or know that. But for me, I’d been a, you know, a theater kid, right, which is harmless enough, we knew plenty of kids that would, you know, just commute into the city for auditions and then be able to kind of still have the best of both worlds when you think about it. But when you move 1000s of miles away from your family, it is not the same as that commuting, you know that commuting was also a tremendous amount of financial and time commitment for my mom, and in some ways, took her away from showing up for my three other siblings. And it’s let me tell you damage their relationship forever. Big time. And even prior to that when I was traveling with you know, musical theater shows that she wouldn’t be there if they got hit with something at school and broke their nose and like I to this day, one of the hardest things I have because she has relocated to Austin. And it’s very difficult as a mom to sit down and try to talk to her about being a stage mom. Because there’s so many gaps in her decision making that I just would never and then at the same in the same breath, I have to genuflect away and just be like, but you did this on for me and like, so it’s true. I mean, there’s a lot of triggers there. When you think about that real talk.

V Spehar  25:10

Was your mother, a performer also?

Christy Carlson Romano  25:12

Not at all. Like she wasn’t like, you know, wasn’t the quintessential, you know, you’re going to do this because I didn’t like it really, truly wasn’t. Now, I will tell you, the one thing that my mom did pride herself on was that she was like a sales woman. And that, you know, she came up in a time where branding, marketing sales, she did sales for like Xerox or something. Yeah. And so when she was in sales, no other women were there. And she started doing really well. And my father didn’t even go to work until I was born. So I find it kind of ironic that she was reclaiming her individuality by pushing me forward into something that I was obviously very talented at a young age. So there was a lot less competition. When you think about whether you want to get in from being a kid or being an adult.

V Spehar  26:03

Was it your dream to begin with to be a performer? What was the moment when you’re like, Mom, I want to go to an audition even how did you even know?

Christy Carlson Romano  26:10

She repeats herself a lot about the past. And sometimes it’s very hard to speak with her about things because she wants to live in the past primarily. And, and that’s very hard. I would imagine that there’s a lot of stage parents that grow into that time in their lives. But she’ll remind me a lot and anyone else who will listen, not to shit on my mom, I love my mom. But obviously, it’s problematic. She’s like, you know, when you were 6 years old, you went and performed on stage. And you came offstage. And you told me, mommy, I had butterflies in my tummy. And I loved that feeling. And she says, that’s when she knew that I was a natural performer. Now, one of my first memories is like me being on stage. And I was like, in line, waiting to know if I won, you know, like top prize or middle prize, bronze, whatever. And I was in fifth position, like with bright lights shining on me on stage. It was for, I think, a talent, a dance competition. And I was on stage for something. And then I actually peed my pants like onstage because I was that young. And I was in a little leotard, and I guess I didn’t go before. And that’s literally like, when I started doing some therapy, I was like, oh, fuck, that’s like one of my earliest memories is being shamed on stage because I didn’t get the award. And I looked, and I remember looking to the side of the stage, and my mom was there was some stage manager was freaking out, because they could see I was peeing. So like, I just think it’s a very deep, complex trajectory for a parent and child to undertake this.

V Spehar  28:07

Did you feel like you made that decision together with your mom, like you were saying, I want to perform, she was noticing that you were very good at performing. There were these moments of deep embarrassment, like peeing your hands on stage, that didn’t stop you from wanting to be a performer, though you still got back up on that stage? What was that driving force that made you say, you know, what, Mom, I needed to do this. And your mom’s similarly had to kind of look at her other children and say, like, you need to let me do this with your sister.

Christy Carlson Romano  28:35

So I was pretty complicit in all of this, I think over the years. And then once I think the culture of my success became dominant in my family dynamic, it became like, how do we serve Christy’s career, you know, and then it became quite toxic later on, where I was actually paying, you know, my parents and paying for the mortgage and stuff like that. So things did slip over time. So I mean, I was a part of that and feeling indebted to the time commitment and subconsciously knowing that like, you know, my mom was taken away from my siblings, and I didn’t have time to just hang out with my siblings, because I always had to be, you know, cross training or in classes or be doing this or that. And it wasn’t that they weren’t doing their own things. They all had their own passions that my parents were like, you know, type a on them about two, which is another thing about our community that people should kind of frame for themselves in the east coast. It’s, it’s a rat race. And it’s like, you know, are you going to get in an Ivy League school? Like, what are you going to do? And so we lived with that, you know, with everyone had to be the best at something. And, you know, I don’t know if you’ve listened to Jennette McCurdy, his book, I’m currently listening to it, but if you’ve read it or experienced it, there’s a lot of similarities in how much I loved my mom. And like, just felt so connected with her and so disconnected from my father, and I think as their relationship started to sort of deteriorate over time. I was like, I’m mommy’s girl, I’m almost like an only child to some degree at a certain point. So yeah, I mean, I just feel like, like I said, there was a culture that started at a very early age to serve this narrative of, you know, I am this actress. And then it just became sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I guess.

V Spehar  30:24

And at one point, it wasn’t like you were just doing one gig or one project, you were doing like three Disney projects at one time, just became like, massive overtaking of your childhood of your person. And oftentimes, you were playing, you know, this strong female lead, who like knew what to do, who was the good sister. How was that balancing with the way that you felt about real life?

Christy Carlson Romano  30:47

I think it was really ironic that I would always get cast in the role of like the older sister, because I was literally the youngest of four. And I also very much admired my sisters, for what I thought of them, at least, like I imagined them as being these amazing goddesses of, you know, like, super feminine and popular and all these things. And so from what I knew of what that looked like, I think I just kind of tried to perform that. And then Disney wrote to the strengths, and I felt really good about representing those virtues, so to speak. And so when I started, like, especially with Ren, and I think this is how Kim Possible came about, for me with voicing her, I met a lot of my younger fans, and they were all like little, you know, they were always younger than me. And I was like, oh, wow, like, I mean something to these kids. And I will say, like, politics aside, you know, Raven, Hillary, Shi’a, and myself, like, we all loved our fans. I mean, they are the best because they, even to this day, it’s like, they get taken back to that time, and their eyes get big and glossy, and they’re just, like, want to hug you. And you’re just like, how do I not love you? You know, how do I not feel like a big sister to you. So I think over time, I just kind of assimilated to that being my reality and really enjoying the genuineness of that aspect of that fame.

V Spehar  32:15

And you were really part of Disney, you know, with, like you just mentioned a bunch of other kids who are part of Disney. Nickelodeon was huge at this time. Also, this golden era of children’s television, having all of these like brand new shows original content, and there was a lot of pressure. And now we’re seeing a lot of folks are speaking out about how that wasn’t quite the Magic Kingdom that we all thought it was. Did you notice when you were young, that the conditions that you were living in as a Disney star, were fairly toxic from time to time?

Christy Carlson Romano  32:46

I mean, considering how I, my alternative was to go home a failure. I mean, if I were to leave, right, like everything from the age of 6 to 16 conditioned me to stay in that this was the ultimate, the penultimate, like goal that my entire family dedicated all that time and energy to, there was never a question of whether I could return leave take time for myself. And I was also told that like, all of that success was mounting up to me getting into an Ivy League school, which I did, on the premise of, you know, I went to Barnard, which is like, where Ren Stevens would go to school where Kim Possible would go to college like my life was, there was so much privilege given to me, right. And so I knew that I couldn’t slap a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak, like I didn’t come from much. And so evaluating whether something was toxic or not, was just not, it wasn’t within my ability to do that, because I was a child. And then there wasn’t any advocates there weren’t there. Their mental health was not cool to talk about. It was like, you were either a winner or a failure.

V Spehar  33:55

And through all this, I mean, you’re experiencing East Coast life, being a child star feeling like if you come home, it’s a failure. But when you’re home also feeling like this is really relaxing and enjoyable. And I can kind of like be a regular kid here. Was there a point when you ever thought I just can’t do this anymore and I do want to give up?

Christy Carlson Romano  34:12

I mean, I think I think I fooled everybody. Because I did do that by going to college. So after Even Steven.

V Spehar  34:21

Success did your way out.

Christy Carlson Romano  34:25

I changed the system within the system. That’s what it was. So basically, like a lot of the West Coast kids that were actors and stuff like this college was a joke. They were like, Why would I go to college? Are you kidding me? They look down on it. Whereas like my mom had me have a different tutor every single day, because we hated and I still hate the studio teacher role. I think that their position is useless. I think that they are a proxy for a lot of bullshit. They justify a lot of things, a lot of behaviors. They do not help whatsoever and they do not educate the child.

V Spehar  35:00

What’s a studio teacher?

Christy Carlson Romano  35:02

Studio teachers are appointed by production by legal standards, if you want to call it that, to administer schoolwork and schooling hours. So they’re like, they sit there and make sure that the child does their homework. And like, I guess, if they’re there for academic questions that will ask them, or I guess maybe they’ll google it these days. But it’s like, they’re really a proxy for a guardian. And they can justify that the parent isn’t in the room when the school hours have to happen, but the school hours have to happen. And if the school hours don’t happen in a certain timeframe, and a certain amount of time, the child has pulled from set, and that is negotiable. And that is a gray area. And for me, my education, like I said, was partially what got me out of that hustle at 18 or 17. And I was like, okay, I want to go to an Ivy League school Mom, I’ll go to an Ivy League school, just what do I got to do? So we got TAs from UCLA and every single discipline. And so I had, like the best teachers I could possibly have on top of getting my curriculum sent to me from the Professional Children’s School, which was my performing arts school in Manhattan that I was commuting to. And so I mean, you know, yeah, I paid out of pocket to make sure that my education was supplemented. And it did help get me into a really good school, which permitted me a justification to like step away from California. And then the summer, before Barnard started, I had done a pilot called boarding school, which we’re looking back at. I’m realizing why it didn’t happen. So it was a fox pilot. That was from some of the creators of friends. So it was a very highly coveted, talked about pilot. And it was about boarding school girls that, you know, sneak into a bar. And my character, I guess, had had been brokenhearted and kisses this older guy in the bar. She goes to school, the next day turns out to be your teacher.

V Spehar  37:05

Oh, no.

Christy Carlson Romano  37:08

So it was like, it was like a facts of life. They were saying it was like facts of life. Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know.

V Spehar  37:16

Analyzing grooming of children by elder adults.

Christy Carlson Romano  37:21

Will they or won’t they? Right? I know. And the crazier thing was that Fox actually gifted us push up bras, girl, like, they were like, You need push up bras in order to do this part accurately.

V Spehar  37:35

So, I have to, I wasn’t going to ask, but now I have to ask, right. Like when you were doing your child star stuff, your mom was there, she was making sure that you were getting educated. You played some really incredibly difficult roles that we’ll get into later, like Mary Fagan and Parade. But as you started to age, this seems to be the turning point for a lot of child actors is like when they go from being a little kid, like Shirley Temple type actor, to now you’re a teenager, you’ve gone through some form of puberty, they’re starting to sexualize the characters that you’re portraying. Did that happen to you?

Christy Carlson Romano  38:07

Unfortunately, not. And when I say unfortunately, I don’t really mean that. I just mean that like, you know, Maxim started coming out. If hmm, you know, Playboy playmates were on reality television, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Richie were big at that time when I was transitioning into, you know, becoming a 17 year old. But, you know, we didn’t have social media and paparazzi wasn’t following Disney Channel stars like they do, or they did. I don’t know if they do anymore. But there was a lot of, like, people didn’t know who we were outside of the kids that watched. And even then, we were not part of the basic cable package until Raven Simone’s show started airing. And they wanted it to be an urban markets. So they made it part of the basic cable package. And so then, there was this whole expanding of our demo. And over time, I think people also got to know me because I was in reruns for like, like 10 years. So, you know, kids would grow up thinking that I was growing up alongside them, I guess. But yeah, I was off living my life. I was frozen in time, to be perfectly honest. But had I had aggressive folks behind me and not been taken away to college, right, when I would have started that transition, of working with you know, high end stylists and high end photographers and, you know, going to certain kinds of parties and talking to certain kinds of people and just having those conversations and even some relationships, you know what I mean? Like, I think it’s important to note that I failed at that I failed at being sexy. And I struggled with you know, being thin because I was naturally thin and I didn’t really have a large chest so I had to fix that right. And, and it was other things where I was like, But wait, like, I could just go off and get educated did and so I ran into the arms of academia. And then when that didn’t work out, I ran into the arms of the Broadway community again by being Bell and beating the beast and I had had such a fuzzy blanket notion of what theater would do for me. And that was not that experience. I did not have that experience with Bill I worked. I expired myself. I bit off more than I can chew. I think, what did they call that you girl boss to close on? Yeah, I think that’s what happened.

V Spehar  40:49

Something that is so interesting about your journey of like, what you were going through it and then me being like a person in our hometown who was watching you on this journey. For me watching your sort of like career and everything that go would go on. And it would be like, you’d come back and then you wouldn’t be there. And like, I went to school with your cousins and whatnot. And so it’d be like, Oh, she’s home. She’s not home. I just want you to know, in the beginning of the show, you were saying that you felt like when you weren’t performing? You were failing. But I want you to know that, like all of us in your town, were like cheering for you. We were like, Oh my God. That’s exciting. Like, that’s great. And now that we’re on the Broadway part, which was the part that I most remember you from my mom took me to see you be Belle, like 9 times. Yes, we went to your opening week. My sister was very into beauty in the beast. She’s younger than me. She loves getting the beast and it was the biggest deal and you might not have known that. But like there was like a school field trip to go watch Christy Carlson Romano from Milford like, be Belle on Broadway. Yes, it was a huge deal.

Christy Carlson Romano  41:49

Even my own day? It’s Christy Carlson Romano day in Milford.

V Spehar  41:54

This is the thing that like that’s the thing about that. That’s so fun about coming from a small town. And what I think is so interesting about your journey is you’ve been able to have like, one foot in each space, and in some cases, dodge maybe some of the destructive things that were happening in Hollywood, because you can come hide out in your hometown. Or you could come back right York in many ways. That’s true. That’s true. And Belle wasn’t the only Broadway role that you had performed. In fact, you got your start very young. And I want to ask you about this because it’s back in the news. So for folks who aren’t aware, Christy originated the role of Mary Fagan in the musical parade, which is being revived on Broadway right now starring Ben Platt. And that musical for folks who aren’t Broadway kids, like you know, we are here. It’s a dramatization of the 1913 trial of Jewish American Leo Frank, who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a 13 year old employee named Marian Fagan. Mary was the character you played. Leo received a posthumous pardon decades later. And this musical right now is being protested by Neo Nazis. I wanted to know your thoughts as one of the original cast members on the importance of telling this story. That is such a difficult story.

Christy Carlson Romano  43:02

All right. Well, thank you for asking me that question. Parade is very near and dear to my heart. It was the first original Broadway show that I’ve ever been. And since has had been a part of I’m on the original, you know, recording. I worked with how Prince Jason Robert Brown, Alfred Yuri. And I most recently went to New York City to City Center before it got funding to then be now on Broadway. I think it’s for a limited run. And I was moved to tears. Once again. I’m always moved to tears with this show. Like, there’s just something about it. So two things closed parade, Rosie O’Donnell, because she had a show at the time, and Carolee […] and Brent Carver went on Rosie O’Donnell, and she had come to our show, but apparently left, like three quarters of the way through, hated it couldn’t stand it. And she was really snarky to them when they were interviewed on her show. And they performed. So she said she didn’t like it. I think even. That might be what it is, and what maybe just wasn’t her shtick. But then we also got a really bad review from the New York Times. And so I’m not sure what the heck that was all about. But I remember hearing Alfred and certain people backstage in Lincoln Center, which is where we were saying that they were having screaming matches with the folks from live event. And they were like, we’re gonna throw those sets in the garbage and like it was so dramatic that the play just went under. And now I was given severance money. And with that severance money, I went out to LA and I booked Even Stevens. So parade is a very, very close spot in my heart only because I was there when it was being created right in front of me like in these rehearsal rooms like it was coming to life. And I remember the audition process that I had an amazing audition and Anne Hathaway was sitting right there. And it was like, if any road had changed my life just would have been so completely different. But I sang a song and it was like a jazzy, bluesy song and Jason Robert Brown was just loved my take on that. And so my little character, Mary Fagan is such a beautiful character. And to portray her, meant a lot to me, even when I was, you know, I was about 14 or 15, which is like her actual age, when she was killed, she was murdered. And there was so much darkness. But it felt like such an important story for me to tell at that age. And I had been doing a lot of like gritty, independent movies in New York, I’d been actually doing a lot of really interesting stuff with like Hal Hartley and I did a really gritty part where I was like, molested and certain things like that. So I was not a Disney kid. And so parade for me. Really just felt like the next best thing for me to do. I don’t even know what I would have done if I hadn’t ended up working for Disney after parade, but it would not have been Disney. I could tell you that much. It would have been more like the Parker Posey, like whatever edgy stuff I would have been a who knows. But I love parade.

V Spehar  46:16

Are your kids interested in acting? Would you let them know?

Christy Carlson Romano  46:19

No, it’s too much work. It’s too much of a commitment for me. Do you know what I mean? Like I saw how much of a commitment it was for my mom, and I’m just trying to take care of my own brand. How am I supposed to take care of their brand now, I’ve said this in interviews past, my goal is to have them have a deep understanding of art. And I will bring them to the ballet, I will bring them to you know, the symphony, I will make sure that, you know, my daughter’s gonna take her second round of art classes at the contemporary here in Austin. She’s about to start piano actually on Friday. And so I’m so hyped up for her to fall in love with the arts. I don’t care about the consumer, you know, capitalist, then that’s where it can become exploitive, but like the fascination with fame is so unhealthy. That I don’t want that for her. I want her to love the arts. That’s what I want.

V Spehar  47:16

Are you seeing kids working with studios? Or are you seeing a lot more of your children’s, you know, peers going this YouTube short form streamer route, that do want to be performers.

Christy Carlson Romano  47:29

I think that what we’re seeing is nothing has changed. Nothing. And that’s why I’ve really taken to my podcast vulnerable to interview folks like Alyson Stoner who’s a fantastic advocate for child labor reform. And I’ve been, you know, I think making some TikTok’s go viral on my account. Because I’ve talked about this, and I’ve done it in a way I think that’s a little bit more palatable, for some reason, you know, I do worry about this, I worry that people are a little judgmental on the shape that this advocacy is coming in. And because I finally fit that shape of being, you know, a White mom, who has money like that, that makes me more interesting to hear about child labor reform from and that it’s less scary, because I got through it or something. But I’m telling you that it’s not changing the problem, the problem is the problem. So a lot of me wants to try to spend time finding ways of getting data that’s irrefutable, to kind of move that forward into legislation. And you know, this is the question, and maybe you can help me answer this. Do you think that America cares about children? Like truly?

V Spehar  48:47

You know, I think America likes to use children to perpetuate a certain narrative or to use as a shield? Certainly. And I think that’s the bigger question in what I’m so interested that you’re exploring on your podcast vulnerable and also having lived sort of as a voyeur to some of the worst of the abuses that were happening to some of your peers and colleagues. Does America love children? It doesn’t feel like it right, Christy. I mean, right now we’re seeing child labor laws take a turn and they’re letting kids work even younger. To your point this has been going on for a long time shootings are happening all over the place. There are drag bands to protect children who are not at harm in that particular avenue. Yeah. What do you think is apparent? Politics can be doing to show that, that America loves children then?

Christy Carlson Romano  49:37

I think at least speaking from the child performer side, which I think echoes in the sentiment that I have for everything else pertaining to children is like we need to shut up and we need to fix the problem. And I speak as a parent, because it’s like we spend so much money and time trying to feed our kids organic food. And yet all the other stuff that’s going through their minds and things that we’re kind of standing by and, and letting happen to their psyches, in some ways, is kind of like what I went through as a famous kid. You know, it’s like, there was definitely a naivete about the golden era of Disney. And something that was fucking shocking to me. About 48 hours ago, when I was driving in the car, I had this really sick revelation. What if nostalgia is us all collectively grieving a time that will never exist again, but in a way that’s grieving as a part of society that is now dead. And so I find it almost eerie now, when we think about nostalgia and how much nostalgia content is, you know, run it runs my entire brand. You know, it’s my entire income isn’t a soldier. But when I think about the part of me that wants to progress, and be a true advocate of change, there’s definitely like, in this case, having my foot in two worlds, it’s a little bit more problematic. It’s a little more like I’m torn, in some ways, if that makes any sense? I don’t know.

V Spehar  51:20

Yeah, it does. So often, when we think about nostalgia, and why folks rewatch the office or rewatch Kim Possible all the time, is because that was a point in our life, when we’ve still felt like there was potential. And oftentimes, we visit these places, these nostalgic places, because we remember, well, there was all this potential to make things better. And the gap between then and now has not narrowed that much. We are still seeing child actors be exploited. We’re still hearing horrendous stories about sexual abuse, and the hours that kids are working and the ways that they’re being financially exploited by desperate families in some cases, and that potential from when you were doing it, you know, in the 90s and early 2000s, originally, to the way that kids are kind of living now has not changed that much. So we tried to go back to say, Okay, well, what would we do different knowing what we know, now, if we could start at 9099? And I think, yeah, some of that thinking, is maladaptive and the way that it allows us to do nothing. It allows us to just sort of like dream about what we could have done or how it could be better. But to your point, we have to start taking action on what is happening for kids right now. And on your podcast, you do talk to a lot of folks who have had good and bad experiences growing up as former child stars, are you guys thinking about building like a coalition or something of advocates or founding some sort of organization where you now have adult power and adult money, and you can use that to actually do something that your hands were too tired for when you were young, to make sure that future generations starting today, have better protections and are more called out, and that we don’t just allow the studio or the politicians or desperate parents to exploit future generations of kids.

Christy Carlson Romano  52:56

I have created the website of a coalition that I’m very excited about. But I’ve also not got a ton of time to fully platform that right now I have been speaking with. It’s been a couple months, but we’re set to speak again, to I would effectively a coalition of intimacy coordinators, folks that have their PhD in, you know, trauma, trauma licenses, stuff like that. Several other amazing advocates for this charge, including Alyson Stoner, Mara Wilson, and, you know, we want to diversify that. Do you know what I mean? Like we just we don’t want just one kind of person, like I said, represented, we’re needing the people in all sorts of communities to step up to kind of have a roundtable discussion that’s meaningful and impactful. But when it comes to meaningful impact and change and leading to legislation, like I said, data is not going to be made by itself that’s going to need, you know, endorsement from our union. Because let me tell you what, I’ve been paying union dues since I was six and a half, I’m triple vested. Okay, no, not I mean, like, I’ve been literally a union paying person and whether that was making me a minor or not, it should not change the protections that I got. So that’s me. That’s me in a nutshell, I guess. Sorry, that was very long winded.

V Spehar  54:17

You’re talking to a good audience. I mean, I certainly have like a very politically active audience here who is looking to their favorite stars from childhood and saying like, I’m so sorry that that happened to you. I didn’t know that happened to you. Because our experience with you right was like, watching you on television and other stars, like you and then like going outside and playing with our friends for a couple hours and like nah, I’m so glad.

Christy Carlson Romano  54:40

You know, like, look, if at the end of the day we loved you, I can tell you that right now. Like we loved our fans so much so much that it was almost worth the sacrifice, of knowing as adults that like what we did, impacted you. So when you come up to most of But I’m saying most of the folks from the golden era of Disney and Nickelodeon if you come up to us if we don’t throw our hands open like tell me and I will go and slap a bitch because it’s like an unspoken code that like we love you guys and if that if that really made a difference for you then maybe it was worth it.

V Spehar  55:21

So Christy, tell folks we know where to find you on our televisions right we just go till the till the remote control pull up Kim Possible pull up even stevens pull up the cutting edge of ice skating movie I loved that one topic so we can find you, you know on our on our TV boxes and whatnot. But where can we find you outside of that? Where did they get the podcast were you working on now?

Christy Carlson Romano  55:45

I’m a social girlie. I’m on you know Vulnerable is Spotify Apple, you know everywhere that you get your podcasts as they tell us to say and then I’m I love being in studio for that though. So it is on YouTube. And ultimately, I love Vulnerable. I love the Even Stevens rewatch Podcast. I’m in love with POD CO which is my podcast network of rewatch podcasts, but we also have things like brotherly love with the Lawrence Brothers.

V Spehar  56:14

Yes. Love that one.

Christy Carlson Romano  56:16

Thank you. Thank you for your support. No, honestly, it matters so much to me when people come up to me and tell me anything about what I’ve currently got going on. Or even if it’s a piece of content, like everything that I do is somehow related to you know, trying to create that feeling for you guys to connect with me more intimately more authentically. Because I feel like there’s there was a lot of time when I wasn’t able to do that. And now social media is allowing me to do that. So I’m going for it.

V Spehar  56:44

Christy it is always so good catching up with you. Thanks for joining us today.

Christy Carlson Romano  56:47


V Spehar  56:51

That’s right, my friends. If you see Christy or any of your other favorite Disney stars, let them know you care about them because they’re fans of you too. And we are all super fans of you here at Lemonada because you keep us going. Be sure to tune into next week’s episode when we dig into the headlines you might have missed. Leave us a five star rating on whatever platform you’re listening on and follow me at @underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. And guess what friends? There’s even more V INTERESTING with Lemonada Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like Dr. Pooja Lakshman talking about her time working in one of the world’s only orgasm labs. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.

CREDITS  57:35

V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.

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